It is important to note however, that the sociology of religion should not be confused with the philosophy of religion as the latter does not look into the claims of religious beliefs. Since not all religions are the same, one will always find religion in some way, shape, or form even in the most primitive of human societies. It is become of these various forms of religion that sociologists have recognized the need to study its relation to the development of our society in general (Crossman, Ashley, “Sociology of Religion”). Therefore when one speaks of the study of the sociology of religion, he means the study of the religion as a belief and social institution.
The study of religion in relation to our society is quite important because religion is not merely an individualized belief system, it is one of the oldest standing social institutions around. It is a method that helps shapes the society that we live in by offering a specific social pattern for those with the same beliefs to follow. The reason that these people follow specific teachings and learning from the religion is because religion seeks to answer some questions that man has about his existence and his role in society. It is this gray area of religion that has sociologists asking questions about it.
Questions such as (Crossman, Ashley, “Sociology of Religion”): How are religious beliefs and factors related to other social factors like race, age, gender, and education? How are religious institutions organized? How does religion affect social change? What influence does religion have on other social institutions, such as political or educational institutions? By understanding how religion has a direct effect on our society, sociologists can further understand the mindset of a society that is based upon a belief system that varies far and wide in relation to its population. They come to unravel the secrets of human society in relation to religious beliefs and organizations that manages to influence social change when necessary. However, unlike regular sociology, religious sociologists do not use mathematical or statistical data for their interpretation. Rather, they base their studies upon interviews with religion members, organizational leaders, and observation of various religious services. Due to the many choices afforded to individuals in terms of religious freedom, it is important to understand the individual rational behind a person's choice of religion. This freedom of choice is believed to be based upon the Rational Choice Theory. By definition, the rational choice theory is based upon the belief that (Hak, Durk H. “Rational Choice Theory”): Scientific (macro)problems have to be solved at the level of individuals (acting purposively). The hard core consists of an empirical generalization—some would say axiom—stating that individuals choose the most efficient means as they perceive them for the attainment of their goals. Individuals, because of human nature, make a rational trade-off between costs and profits. Costs and rewards are both material and immaterial, and also are personal and situational. In relation to religion, the rational choice theory is a highly and heatedly debatable topic. This is because religious point of views pertaining to the rational choice theory need to leave room for personal preferences and individual choices (Hak, Durk H. “Rational Choice Theory”). With religion viewed as a system of compensating for the shortcomings of people, the rational